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STL Licensing: ASSC Submission to Local Government & Communities Committee

STL Licensing: ASSC Submission to Local Government & Communities Committee

The ASSC has submitted evidence to the Scottish Government’s Local Government & Communities Committee regarding SSIs laid in Parliament on 14th December 2020:

  • The Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 (Licensing of Short-term Lets) Order 2021 (the “Licensing Order”)
  • The Town and Country Planning (Short-term Let Control Areas) (Scotland) Regulations 2021 (the “Control Area Regulations”)

The Scottish Parliament’s Local Government and Communities Committee has asked for evidence in response to the questions below:

  1. Do the proposed changes strike the correct balance between protecting the long-term sustainability of local communities and promoting tourism and strong local economies?
  2. Has the Scottish Government’s defined short terms lets in a clear and correct way in the legislation?
  3. Will local authorities have adequate resources, powers and expertise to make a success of their new powers and duties?

The ASSC has submitted evidence in three parts:

Contrary to the current media narrative, short-term lets are not a new phenomenon. Given that the ASSC has acted as the trusted voice of the self-catering sector for over forty years, we are well aware that short-term lets have always formed a crucial supportive part of Scotland’s rich tourism offering.

The self-catering sector generates in excess of £723m of economic activity to Scotland each year. With these figures in mind, it is little wonder that the Scottish Government has welcomed the economic benefits of our sector, a1s well as the development of new models of short-term letting to Scotland.

In January 2020, the Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning, Kevin Stewart MSP provided a Ministerial Statement to parliament setting out the Scottish Government’s response to their consultation on establishing a regulatory framework for short-term lets. The Minister announced that the Scottish Government would take action in the following three areas:

  • Establish a licensing scheme for short-term lets in Scotland under the 1982 Civic Government Act Scotland. This will include a mandatory element for all short-term let properties on health and safety requirements but local authorities will have a discretionary power to introduce other conditions to the licensing regime on issues such as anti- social behaviour and littering.
  • Empower local authorities to introduce short-term let control areas to tackle short-term letting “hotspots”, under the 2019 Planning (Scotland) Act.
  • Review the tax treatment of short-term lets. This will complement the approach taken with the forthcoming TVL Bill, albeit this process has been put on hold in light of Covid-19.

Despite pausing work on the regulations due to Covid-19 back in Easter 2020, and then resuming in July 2020, the Scottish Government are working to their original timescale of having a licensing scheme in place by Spring 2021.

We believe that a licensing system is a blunt tool to fix a perceived and localised problem of amateur operators in Edinburgh, rather than being a solution that is appropriate for the whole of the Scotland, nor is it one that makes a necessary distinction between different types of visitor accommodation providers.

The ASSC remains concerned that little differentiation is made between different types of operator in what is a diverse short-term letting landscape, with potentially dire unintended consequences to the professional self-catering sector that contributes £723m to Scotland.

The ASSC also believe that, due to the impact of Covid-19, the potential pitfalls and shortcomings of licensing come into sharper focus in two main respects: (a) the impact for resource stretched local authorities having to deal with an influx of tens of thousands of licensing applications; and (b) the impact any disproportionate licensing system could have on the recovery of Scottish tourism.

We note the following:
Finlay Carson (Galloway and West Dumfries) (Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party): To ask the Scottish Government, in light of the responses from local authority stakeholders to the consultation on short-term lets, whether it will provide grants or loans to councils to assist with the costs of setting up a licensing scheme, and how many have (a) requested and (b) indicated that they might require additional funding. (S5W-34589)
Kevin Stewart: Local authorities will be able to charge fees to cover the cost of establishing and running their short-term lets licensing scheme. The Scottish Government has no plans to provide grants or loans to local authorities to do so. A total of 23 local authorities responded to the Short Term Lets: Consultation on a licensing scheme and planning control areas in Scotland (14 September 2020); see www.gov.scot/publications/short-term-lets/ for the consultation paper and report. Three of those responses expressed the opinion that the Scottish Government should provide grant or loan funding to support the establishment of the licensing scheme. Outside of the consultation, no formal requests for additional funding have been received. (22nd January)
In addition:
Finlay Carson (Galloway and West Dumfries) (Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party): To ask the Scottish Government what (a) bills, (b) regulations and (c) consultations it has postponed since March 2020 due to the impact of COVID-19, broken down by portfolio area. (S5W-34588) 
Graeme Dey: In order to respond to the unprecedented challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Scottish Government has since March 2020 re-prioritised its legislative programme to ensure that Government resources and Parliamentary time could be freed up to respond to the implications for Scotland of the global pandemic.
As previously set out to Parliament, the re-prioritisation process led to the following Bills being postponed:
Transient Visitor Levy Finance
Good Food Nation Rural Economy & Tourism
Circular Economy Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform
Moveable Transactions Justice
Gender Recognition Social Security and Older People
Fox Hunting Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform
Restricting Foods Promotions Health & Sport.
The programme of Government SSIs was also re-profiled during 2020 to free up Government and Parliamentary resources for the COVID-19 response. However, that re-profiling exercise has now been completed and all necessary SSIs have been brought forward.
Information on consultations that may have been postponed as a consequence of COVID-19 is not held centrally. The information requested could only be obtained at disproportionate cost. (22nd January)

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